Indonesia: a coal giant exporting climate change

Twenty years ago, Indonesia was a marginal player in the world of coal. Between 2000 and 2009, an era of massive expansion of coal saw Indonesia develop the world’s fastest growing coal sector, with coal production increasing by 460% since 2000. Today Indonesia is the world’s largest thermal coal exporter and the second largest coal exporter overall.

In just two decades, Indonesia’s rampant deforestation and coal mining boom has driven the nation to become the world’s third largest climate polluter, behind China and the US. Indonesia’s coal production and exports grew on average 6% per year from 2005 to 2013, posting the second largest absolute increase in production, after China, and overtaking India in terms of total coal output in 2012.  In only 8 years, Indonesia’s coal production growth added 630 million tonnes to global annual CO2 emissions, more than the entire annual emissions of Canada.  In total, coal production growth in China and Indonesia accounts for the entire net increase in global fossil CO2 emissions over this period. The projected future increase of 460 million tonnes of carbon emissions from coal mining expansion completely undermines Indonesia’s 2009 voluntary commitment to reduce national emissions by up to 41% by 2020. Achieving a decrease in Indonesia’s coal exports would eliminate the second largest source of fossil CO2 growth in the world, making a major contribution to peaking global emissions.

The system for issuing of mining licenses, exploration permits, or production permits is in disarray and local governments have granted over 10,000 permits. Many of these permits are overlapping or unmapped. Corruption and violence are major problems in the coal industry and illegal, unlicensed coal mines abound.

Meanwhile, Indonesia is currently operating 42 active coal fired power plants across the country and has another 117 proposed new coal fired power plants in the pipeline.  Additional emissions from these new power plants would include vast new quantities of SO2, NOx, Hg, PM 10, PM 2.5, that would be a real threat to humans and the environment.

The coal industry – both coal mines and power plants – are causing irreparable damage to agriculture, fisheries, water supplies and human health.  If plans for a coal-based future are actually put into place and go unchallenged, Indonesia will be locked into pollution, sickness, death, farming losses and damaged fisheries while exporting climate change to the rest of the world.

It does not have to be this way. Greenpeace has a strong vision for Indonesian leadership in a green future, one that abandons its plans for more coal and embraces geothermal and other renewable energies.  Greenpeace calls on the government of Indonesia to leave its decades-old legacy of dirty energy and make the country truly a global leader in clean, green, safe & sustainable renewable energy for all.